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Court: Soldiers life sentence stands
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    ATLANTA — Georgia’s top court on Monday unanimously upheld the life sentence of a soldier convicted in the stabbing death of an infantryman he fought alongside in Iraq, a brutal crime that inspired the movie ‘‘In the Valley of Elah.’’
    A lawyer for Alberto Martinez argued in May that jury should have learned that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in combat. David West said Martinez deserved a new trial. In an opinion issued on Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court disagreed, saying his attorneys gave ample justification for not pursuing a mental health defense.
    ‘‘The evidence was sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find Martinez guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes for which he was convicted,’’ Justice Harris Hines wrote.
    Martinez, 27, was convicted of killing Richard Davis after a night of drunken partying with three other soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division in July 2003. The men had just returned to Fort Benning in western Georgia after a six-month tour in Iraq.
    Davis’ charred body was found several days later in a wooded area near Columbus, outside of the base on the border with Alabama. The 24-year-old had been stabbed repeatedly, with wounds so deep they nicked bone.
    At his 2006 trial, Martinez’s lawyers argued that one of the other three soldiers — Jacob Burgoyne — killed Davis.
    The opinion released by the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday said that was a reasonable defense, especially given the prolonged nature of the attack. Davis was stabbed repeatedly and the men left to buy lighter fluid to set his body on fire. They returned again a few days later to bury the body.
    PTSD might explain ‘‘why an individual would ’snap and do something in reaction to some stimulation,’’’ Hines wrote for the court majority.
    But it ‘‘could not explain Martinez’s subsequent actions of repeatedly stabbing Davis and engaging in a conspiracy to cover up the murder,’’ the justices reasoned.
    On the night he died, Davis joined Martinez, Burgoyne, Mario Navarrete and Douglas Woodcoff for a night out. A visibly drunk Davis was kicked out of the club for insulting a stripper and the men scuffled in the parking lot. They piled into the car with Martinez behind the wheel and drove to a wooded area. Martinez ordered Davis out of the car. When Davis staggered toward him, Martinez stabbed him with a knife, according to court records. Burgoyne and Navarrete tried to get Martinez to stop but eventually gave up.
    Navarrete also was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Burgoyne was sentenced to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony and Woodcoff was sentenced to five years of probation for concealing a death.
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